VonChris Heasmann/Jan Feb 26, 2023 4:23 PM EST
In January 2011, Warner Bros. announced (vialast term) that British actor Henry Cavill has been tapped to star in the studio's latest Superman reboot. At the time, the director of the then-untitled project, Zack Snyder, described Cavill as "the perfect choice to don the cloak and the S-Shield." Two years later, Man of Steel hit theaters, bringing Kal-El back to the big screen and—in the words of the Warner Bros. chairman—after a seven-year absenceJeff Robinow- take a "first step" into a larger DC Universe.
In December 2022, Cavill recorded itInstagramto announce that he would be stepping down as Superman. "It's my turn to wear the cloak," he wrote, "but what Superman represents will never go away. It's been a fun ride with you all, onward and upward.” However, that optimism belied the true story behind Cavill's man of steel, who left a tarnished legacy of behind-the-scenes drama, studio intrusions and critical disasters. Blame for the failure of DC Extended Universe's Superman undoubtedly rests with many people, but from start to finish one studio oversaw everything. That's how Warner Bros. spoiled Henry Cavill's Superman.
New age, wrong director
Man of Steel was the first live-action Superman film since 2006's Superman Returns, a more or less jaunt for the last son of Krypton to conquerdecent commentserelatively disappointing box office results. Meanwhile, Superman Returns was the first Superman movie since 1987's Superman IV: The Quest for Peace, a complete cinematic atrocity that can easily be counted among the worst blockbusters of all time. It can't be underestimated how important it was for the "Man of Steel" to rekindle the world's love for Superman.
Unfortunately, Warner Bros. picked the wrong man for the job. I'll probably have to go undercover to say this - catch me if you can, #SnyderVerse fans - but Zack Snyder was woefully unfit to direct a solo Superman film. It looks like Warner Bros. was too blinded by the success of Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight trilogy to remember that a Superman movie should be serious, colorful and a word of itHenry Cavillhimself, "cheerful". Instead, they brought in Snyder, a director who had previously directed three completely different genre films with "300", "Watchmen" and "Sucker Punch", which, however, are united by the director's idiosyncratic style and penchant for violence. The result? a dumb suit,a hard cracking sound in the neck, and part ofmixed to negative reviews. It certainly wasn't much fun.
That's not to say Snyder didn't have a place in the DCEU - I'd say he was the perfect choice to direct Justice League, a film that pretty much demanded the bombastic, over-the-top spectacle it does. We will. He just didn't fit Superman. The Man of Steel backfire left Cavill's Superman flat-footed, and neither he nor the DCEU has recovered.
the impulse to
Five years before Man of Steel and the birth of the DCEU, Marvel Studios released Iron Man, which was both the first film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the debut of Robert Downey Jr.'s now legendary Tony Stark. . "Iron Man" faced a similar task as "Man of Steel": It had to firmly anchor its hero in our minds so that he could be used as the basis for a shared universe. Well, there are countless reasons why Stark succeeded where Clark failed, but a lot of it boils down to simple dynamics. Iron Man was released in 2008; Iron Man 2 was released in 2010. Man of Steel was released in 2013; Man of Steel 2 does not exist.
Superman made his second appearance in the DCEU in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, a crossover that forced him to share screen time with another superhero. His third appearance was in Justice League, a much larger crossover that left him out of two-thirds of the film and forced him to share screen time with himcincoother superheroes. Why weren't we given more time in Superman's world? Man of Steel 2 could have explored his allies and enemies better, offered Kal-El a broader character arc, and allowed Cavill to better sink into the public consciousness as Superman. Coincidentally, Warner's failure to produce a sequel to Snyder's original film meant Cavill's Superman never reached the momentum of its Marvel counterpart. By the time someone started taking the idea seriously, it was too late.
What would a Superman movie be without at least one episode of the good old superheroes? You know what I'm talking about: an innocent civilian's life is in danger, forcing the mild-mannered Clark Kent to transform into the Man of Steel, take to the skies and save the day. It's the helicopter sequence in Superman: The Movie, the rescue from Niagara Falls in Superman II, the final confrontation with Ricky's harvester in Superman III, the subway chase in The Quest for Peace - hell, even" Superman Returns" has a plane crash. These moments define Superman and often make for the most moving and inspiring scenes in their respective films. So why didn't Henry Cavill get one?
Of course he came close. At one point, "Man of Steel" shows Clark rescuing some workers during a fire on an oil rig, while "Batman v Superman" features a short but lovely montage of random heroic exploits. However, the former presents the character well before his prime, and the latter is haunted by exaggerated opinions about the nature of deity and Darwinian evolution. There's no bloating score, no edgy highlights; does not exist yethappiness . Both films choose to fill their running times with dark drama and Justice League setup, seemingly under the mistaken assumption that Superman is better portrayed as a tragic hero than a boy scout. So, a decade later, we're left with memories of a man who was too busy demolishing skyscrapers to go out and save a damn life.
Lois and Clark
The love between Clark Kent and Lois Lane (Amy Adams) is one of the strongest pillars of Superman mythology. Their relationship has seen many ups and downs since they met in the pages of Action Comics #1 in 1938.
Adams gives a great performance as Lois in the DCEU and proves more than capable of delivering.Margot Kidder after Reeve-Reihe. It's a shame that the Superman movies of the last few days have spoiled her and Clark's romance so much. Though Lois appears in Man of Steel, Batman v Superman, and Justice League, the central relationship in Superman's life is raw and rushed: she first meets Superman in Man of Steel, and they're on their way Climax of a marriage proposal at the beginning of "Batman v Superman". Meanwhile, Lois' role in the theatrical version of Justice League amounts to little more than glorified pep talk, and Zack Snyder's Justice League is more interested in using her as a linchpin for Superman's future downfall than anything else .
I'm not saying Warner Bros. should have dedicated 90 minutes of Justice League to a dating montage - and we certainly didn't need a makeover of the horrific Superman II - but just a little more time to enjoy this iconic relationship, could have had immeasurable benefits for Cavill's Superman.
Let's kill Jimmy
Lois Lane wasn't the only beloved Superman character to get little attention from the DCEU either. Honestly, you can't help but wonder if anyone from Warner Bros. gambled to see how many classic teammates and allies they could slay as quickly as possible.
Jimmy Olsen is the most blatant example of this. The comic book version of Jimmy has appeared in Superman stories since 1941 (not counting a few untitled appearances before that) and even starred alongside Lois and Clark in his own comic book series, "Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen" in the 1950s , and he was referred byCCas "Superman's best friend". In the DCEU, however, he's anything but. Played by Michael Cassidy, Jimmy appears in a single scene in "Batman v Superman" where he is summarily executed by a random warlord.
Then there's Professor Hamilton, who was introduced to DC in 1987's The Adventures of Superman #424. The Professor is sometimes friend, sometimes foe+ to Kal-El, who plays a pivotal role in the "Death" arc of Superman." on which "Batman v Superman" was loosely based. In the DCEU, Emil Hamilton (Richard Schiff) appears alone in "Man of Steel" and, quite frankly, does very little before his death in the final act. The same film just as unceremoniously ends the Jor-El A.I. (Russell Crowe), a character so deeply embedded in the DC Universe that he even had a cameo appearance in The Lego Batman Movie.
These supporting characters had a lot of potential to brighten up Superman's world. However, by disposing of them so quickly and ruthlessly, Warner Bros. has nothing short of tearing it down piece by piece.
You are fake Lex
And that brings us to Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg). It's easy to see why Zack Snyder and Warner Bros. decided to cast Eisenberg asa sociopath, technical brothertake on Superman's nemesis - this was clearly a supervillain for the digital age, the kind of monster we're all very familiar with. Unfortunately, there are some serious problems with Eisenberg's Lex. Together they represent a critical flaw for Luthor and his Kryptonian enemy.
As you probably already know, Batman v Superman is not Man of Steel 2. The friendly nature of this film's franchise means Lex is forced to face both Batman and Superman as antagonists, and his personal relationship with Supes suffers as a result; Screen time that should have been devoted to building their animosity is devoted to an elaborate plan to force a confrontation between the two heroes. This might have worked well if Batman vs. Superman was Lex's second appearance (and Superman's third), but by the looks of it, his role in the Batman-Superman showdown feels shallow and undeserved.
Worse, after Batman v Superman spent too much time setting up Lex as a more modern version of the character, the franchise collapses and returns to normal. When he shows up again in a post-credits scene from Justice League (one that's also in Zack Snyder's Justice League), he's basically talking about Gene Hackman, all the tailored suits, and cunning schemes — though Eisenberg was clear intended to undermine this approach. At the very least, we'll likely never have to suffer the demise of the DCEU's Lex Luthor. Little graces, aren't they?
Justice League, Assemble!
I probably don't need to tell you what went wrong with Justice League. In case you didn't know, it all started in 2017 when Zack Snyderdropped out of the project in the middle of productionto be with her family after the sudden death of her daughter. Of course, this was an inevitable tragedy for which no one could be held responsible, and from a personal perspective, Snyder clearly made the right decision in retiring. Unfortunately, his departure left a hole in the director's chair, and Warner Bros. chose the worst person alive to fill it.
The studio gave the director of "The Avengers" andcompletely horrible faceJoss Whedonabout $25 million and two monthsRemake and complete Justice League. Snyder was an excellent fit for a Justice League film, as Zack Snyder's Justice League later proved. Whedon, however, was not. The theatrical version of Justice League is a bleak, disappointing mess, full of crude humor, nagging dialogue and the worst special effects this side of 2000. That was itpivoted criticallyand for a production of this scale it wonPeanuts at the checkout. The film's impact on Henry Cavill's half-emergent Superman was disastrous: now, coupled with a mediocre solo film and two true disasters, the character's troubled legacy was beginning to take hold. And that's not to mention...
Superman's Justice League mustache fiasco could very well be the DCEU's bottom. When Joss Whedon and Warner Bros. called in the film's cast to reshoot in 2017, Henry Cavill was involved in principal photography on "Mission: Impossible: Fallout," leading each film's crew to a tricky dilemma: for the sixth installment the Tom Cruise series. In an attempt to drive Evel Knievel himself to an early grave, Cavill had to grow a mustache; Superman is known to be clean-shaven. You see where the problem lies.
Well, Warner Bros. not entirely to blame, here. Though the studio refused to delay reshoots until Cavill was ready, Paramount Pictures was just as adamant in the brewing war over the actor's face. According to the director of "Fallout"Christopher McQuarrie, he offered to cover his film in exchange for a payment from Warner Bros. to cover the number of production days lost, but Paramount refused to let it happen. Both films ended up running simultaneously and the Justice League VFX artists were presented with theunenviable and difficult taskto digitally remove Cavill's mustache.
As for the result - well, let's just say it left a little to be desired. Once images of Superman's CGI face leaked online, the internet exploded into onetrue symphony of scorn and scorn, almost certainly hurting the word of mouth of the "Justice League" and doing irreparable damage to the reputation of the DCEU's Superman. A slight shift in the film's release date would have been a small price to pay to literally save face.
After the dust settled on the Justice League disaster, Superman did...well, nothing. No really, he's basically disappeared from the DCEU entirely. More adventures with the Justice League? Do not. "Man of Steel 2"? Do not. cameos? No, and no, "Shazam!" does not count. So what happened?
It's hard to assume that Warner Bros. didn't know what to do with Superman during this time. In fact, it's hard to assume they didn't know what to do.no wayDuring this time. The studio seemed to oscillate at random between disjointed DCEU offshoots like Birds of Prey and The Suicide Squad and Justice League projects like Aquaman and Wonder Woman: 1984. At the same time, it invested time and money in standalone Elseworld-style films like Joker and The Batman. Oh, and he also had a whole future planned for the franchise that depended on ittoo much on Ezra Millerand inexplicably included the return of Michael Keaton's Batman. It was to be kinda total mess.
And yet, bringing back the franchise's most iconic hero didn't seem to occur to anyone. There may be some good reasons for this, some important details that we will learn in the coming months or years, things really aren't looking good from here. The little momentum that Cavill's Superman got after its first three films was completely spent and essentially sealed its fate - and somehow the worst was yet to come.
enter the rock
If Henry Cavill's Superman was doomed, Dwayne Johnson was his Grim Reaper. The Rock's bizarre obsession with getting Supes into Black Adam's orbit began withyour repeated statementthat "the hierarchy of power in the DC Universe" would change. This rhetoric only increased in the run-up to the release of "Black Adam", in whichthe actor again and again- relentlessly even -stimulated a confrontationin betweenyour character and Kal-El. In October 2022, after Cavill made his long-awaited return to the Black Adam post-credits scene,Johnson took responsibilityto a secret behind-the-scenes attempt to bring the actor and character back for more films. "You have to have Superman in the mix," he said. "That's why we fought so hard to bring back Superman, Henry Cavill, and in fact there was no other Superman to bring back Henry Cavill, he's the Superman of our generation and I think the greatest Superman."
The way Johnson spoke, you'd be forgiven for thinking that Black Adam was Superman's true nemesis and that DC had done us all a huge disservice by not letting Christopher Reeve fight him in 1978. Black Adam is actually Captain Marvel's (aka Shazam) nemesis and has a tenuous relationship with the Man of Steel at best. That didn't deter Johnson, however, who gleefully kidnapped Superman for his own ends and embarked on a journey of vanity that, perhaps inevitably, led toto a failed attempt to take over the entire DCEU. It wasn't the man of steel's finest moment. Worst of all, Warner Bros.' an inability to contain Johnson even as the Gunn-Safran deal loomed on the horizon denied Cavill the chance of a graceful exit from the DCEU.
the last days
Henry Cavill's final Superman fall was a jumble of announcements, revamps, and twists. On October 24th, no doubt encouraged by the efforts of Dwayne Johnson and the Black Adam team, Cavill got to workInstagramto reveal that he would be returning to the role of Superman. "The beginning of new hope," he said. "Thank you for your patience, it will be rewarded." For a while, it looked like Cavill's Kal-El was really poised for a comeback — or at least for a full day.
James Gunn and Peter Safran were announced on October 25 (von The Hollywood Reporter) appointed as head of DC Studios, a new division of Warner Bros. to direct DC's film, television and animation productions. Then, on December 15th.explained Cavillthat he wasn't coming back as Superman after all. On the same day,gun revealedwho was looking for a new actor for the role. Warner Bros. couldn't have given Cavill's Superman a less dignified ending if he had been killed with a kryptonite pillow.
Make no mistake, the blame for this rests squarely on the studio's shoulders. No one can deny that the final days of old DCEU have been chaotic, and the emergence of competing bids for control of the studio may have only made things worse. However, it is the studio's job to manage exactly such situations, to prevent worse and to protect those involved from embarrassment. Instead, the wheels just came off completely - and Henry Cavill went down harder than anyone.
one last joke
The sombre coda of this story takes place in the early days of 2023, just as the drama of the past few weeks has begun to die down. At that time, Warner Bros. decided to release a combo pack containing the films Black Adam and Man of Steel.through digital traders. Yes, someone at the studio really believed that all fans want is to shell out $35 for a package that includes both the film that introduced Henry Cavill's Superman and the one that killed him.
Well, it's probably worth pointing outthe market launch of the combination packageit was probably planned a long time ago and no one — certainly no one at Warner Bros. Home Entertainment — could have predicted what would happen in late 2022. However, you would equally hope that instead of proceeding with its release and forcing us all to relive the drama of the months before, someone at the studio would have noticed the package and canceled it. So, sure, that was probably nothing more than an honest mistake - but that doesn't make it any less like one last cruel joke. you have to laugh, don't you?